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Ongoing industrial action disrupts bus passengers

Waikato Regional Council has been told to expect bus driver industrial action to continue, with updated temporary schedules now in place for Hamilton services for the foreseeable future.

Go Bus – contracted by the regional council to operate its bus services – this morning locked out First Union drivers who announced last Friday they would not collect fares. Fare revenue helps to reduce the cost on ratepayers to run the bus service.

This would have put Go Bus in breach of its contract with the regional council, while also creating confusion for passengers and the potential for conflict between passengers and non-union drivers collecting fares.

No Hamilton buses were able to operate this morning for the first two hours of service due to union drivers blocking the entrances to the Go Bus depot and Transport Centre.

Police were called and all the buses had rolled out of the depot and Transport Centre by about 7.45am.

However, it resulted in significant delays to bus services.

“We worked with Go Bus to do all we could to minimise the impact on our passengers, using the available drivers to keep our Hamilton city buses running as close to time as possible during the morning peak,” said Mike Garrett, council chief financial officer.

“But the delay to the start of our service impacted on our passengers across the city, including workers, but in particular students, many of whom were due to sit NCEA and university exams today.”

Mr Garrett said the industrial action was a situation the council would like to see resolved.

“We understand First Union is advocating for a living wage for bus drivers,” Mr Garrett said. “The issue of a living wage for bus drivers extends beyond our region – it’s a nationwide issue.”

In May, the council recommended that the petition it received late last year be forwarded to central government, including the NZ Transport Agency, for their consideration as joint funders of public transport.

“Our focus since then has been on minimising the inconvenience to passengers resulting from the industrial action as much as possible, and we’ve worked closely with Go Bus to do that.”

Temporary timetables are available on the BUSIT website, www.busit.co.nz(external link), or by calling the 24-hour bus infoline on 0800 205 305. Updates are also posted to the BUSIT Facebook page: www.facebook.com/BUSITWaikato(external link).

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